FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.
Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.
If you say “fantasy gangs and crime”, I’m hooked. Just look at the fact that two of my all-time favourite books are Six of Crows and The Lies of Locke Lamora. So, naturally, Jade City sounded right up my alley. And, for the most part, it was. The world was unique and unlike anything I’d seen before, the characters were intriguing, and have I mentioned that I love fantasy gangs and crime? However, I saw one of the biggest plot points coming, which took away a lot of the suspense that I was feeling and prevented me from rating this a full five stars.
Let’s start off with what I think was the strongest aspect of this book: the world-building. The world of Jade City was completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. First off, there’s simply the fact that it’s not a European-based setting, unlike a good 80/90 percent of fantasy. And this didn’t feel like East Asian-lite. The customs felt different, the traditions felt different, and I loved the little detail that the names were actually written the way they are in East Asia (last name before first name). But what I found to be the most unique was the fact that this was a modern fantasy world. The most modern I had ever seen fantasy settings be before is pseudo-18th century until Jade City. This is a world where magic coexists with television and cars, but it is not a magic-is-hidden-in-our-world urban fantasy. Very cool.
I also found the characters intriguing. For most of the book, Shae was probably my favourite. I was really invested in her attempts to walk the line between not being completely alienated from her family and also not be sucked in by the violence of the family business. I also like where Anden’s journey went at the end, although he wasn’t my favourite perspective at the beginning.
But the most important part, for me, of a fantasy crime novel is its ability to keep you guessing. And while there were certainly things I didn’t quite see coming which engaged me, there was one big thing that, if I had not recently re-read another book and been thinking about those sorts of things (I’m being deliberately vague on purpose), I think would have completely blown my mind, but, as it was, I had an inkling about it, and so it… didn’t.
Still, overall, I think Jade City is a strong fantasy with excellent world-building. The fact that I saw something big coming really detracted from how suspenseful it felt for me, but there were a lot of moments that I liked, Shae was a badass and the world was completely new and interesting. I’ll definitely be seeing how this ends.